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Health and medicine

Girl's bird flu virus resists common treatment

By wire services
Published October 15, 2005

NEW YORK - Bird flu virus found in a Vietnamese girl was resistant to the main drug that's being stockpiled in case of a pandemic, a sign that it's important to keep a second drug on hand as well, a researcher said Friday.

He said the finding was no reason to panic.

The drug in question, Tamiflu, still attacks "the vast majority of the viruses out there," said Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Tokyo and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The drug, produced by Swiss-based Roche Holding AG, is in short supply as nations try to stock up on it in case of a global flu pandemic.

Indian pharmaceutical giant Cipla Ltd. said Friday it plans to bring a generic version of Tamiflu to market. Cipla has already developed a generic version, which would be much cheaper, chairman Yusuf K. Hamied said.

Roche refuses to license generic versions despite pressure from several countries and U.N Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Friday's report is the first indication that tests have detected a drug-resistant strain of H5N1 since the virus began circulating among birds in Asia. In lab tests, the 14-year-old girl's virus was susceptible to another drug, Relenza, which is made by GlaxoSmithKline. She recovered fully.

Kawaoka said the case is "only one case, and whether that condition was something unique we don't know."

He also said it's not surprising to see some resistance to Tamiflu, because resistance has also been seen with human flu.

Kawaoka and colleagues will report the case in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature, which released the study Friday. The researchers conclude that it might be useful to also stockpile Relenza.

There's no evidence that H5N1 viruses are becoming generally resistant to the class of drugs that includes Tamiflu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

And in Brussels, European Union health officials unveiled tough new measures Friday to help eradicate the bird flu, including keeping poultry indoors to prevent contact with wild migratory birds that are bringing the disease westward from Asia. The European Union also appealed for people to restrict outdoor activities that risked bringing humans into contact with infected birds.

Information from the Associated Press, New York Times and Washington Post was used in this report.

[Last modified October 15, 2005, 01:16:10]

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